Martin Luther King's dream of racial equality is far from reality.
Census Bureau figures show the U.S. on track to be a majority minority nation by 2042. But if the trends of the last 30 years continue, according to a new report, the economic racial divide is set to increase.
The non-partisan group United for a Fair Economy's (UFE) ninth annual MLK Day report, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority finds that racial economic divide will remain "disastrously large and will threaten the stability of the entire economy."
While the numbers of people of color in the nation surge, this fact alone is not enough to change the economic reality. From the report:
In the age of mass media and Citizens United, money buys influence, and the national income and wealth will remain over-whelmingly in the hands of Whites – a small group of Whites at that.
"The early 1980s marked a turning point in U.S. politics. Reagan sparked a 'me-first' ideological revolution in Washington, D.C. and beyond," says Brian Miller, Executive Director of UFE and a co-author of the report. "The policies since have done little for economic progress for people of color, which should raise great concern as these demographic shifts occur. Without a sea-change in public policy, racial inequality will devastate our economy as people of color become the population majority."
"Income and wealth inequality lend to a host of other social inequalities that keep people of color locked into cycles of hardship and poverty," says Wanjiku Mwangi director of UFE’s Racial Wealth Divide program. "If we do not change course, our economy will not be able to provide for the swelling numbers of Blacks and Latinos out of work, in poverty and in prison."
"As a nation, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday, but we tolerate the perpetuation of racial inequality that he dedicated his life to fighting," says co-author Tim Sullivan. "The growing share of the non-White population presents an opportunity for Blacks and Latinos to build political power. In this era of extraordinary economic inequality, the fate of the vast majority of the White population is more connected with the economic interests of Blacks and Latinos than with the ruling political elite."
From the report's key findings:
- Disparities in income perpetuate poverty in communities of color and will continue to do so unless change is made.
- Increasing wealth inequality entrenches the racial economic divide.
- Education is one of the most important tools we have for increasing social mobility, yet dramatic disparities in education perpetuate inequality.
- The mass incarceration of people of color is historically unprecedented.
Democracy Now! also remarked this morning on the mass incarceration:
Today there are more African Americans under correctional control, whether in prison or jail, on probation or on parole, than there were enslaved in 1850. And more African-American men are disenfranchised now because of felon disenfranchisement laws than in 1870.
In order to abolish this inequality, the group contends, a massive movement is necessary:
Eliminating racial inequality will require a powerful and sustained political movement, aligned not just along the lines of race, but also by economic interests. The renewed national debate about who benefits from the economic system, who doesn’t, and why–a debate inspired in large part by Occupy Wall Street–presents an opportunity to build such a movement. The perverse concentration of wealth and power in the U.S. is central to both Occupy Wall Street and efforts to close the racial economic divide.